Social enterprise Bin cleaners bring Hollywood to Khayelitsha, South Africa.
As an events marketing student at the Cape Peninsula University of Technology (CPUT), 21-year-old Buhle Sithela started his bin cleaning business as part of a practical assignment. It soon blossomed into a full-time community service.
“I wanted to do something that would benefit the community, so I set up this event where people in my (area) could bring their bins and me and my friends would wash them for a small fee,” Sithela told Amaphiko social enterprise website.
The Khayelitsha Bin Clean Project is based in Harare, Khayelitsha. Every Friday, Sithela and his friends clean more than 30 bins, charging R50 per bin. “Initially,” says Sithela, “we didn’t have that many bins. We started with five bins, but things picked up so quickly.”
Clients – such as resident Linda Madlebe – are happy with the service, and speak glowingly about Sithela and his friends’ efforts to improve the neighbourhood. “These guys are setting a good example in our community,” Madlebe told Amaphiko, “especially given that it is gang-ridden. I hope their project grows.”
Sithela focuses on the project full-time as he had to drop out of college last year because of a lack of funds. But it hasn’t been without its difficulties. Besides money being tight, some of the people who help him clean the bins have personal problems that make running the project difficult. “Some of them are suffering from drug addiction and there are times I’ve had to single-handedly clean over 30 dustbins. It’s tough.”
Yet there have been personal triumphs and great learning experiences from starting the business, he says. One of the ways he gives back using the money raised from the business, is to offer community film screenings for youngsters and older residents alike. “Film has always been one of my biggest passions, but. there are little to no cinemas in the townships. So I decided to start my own screenings.”
Since July, Sithela has hosted regular film screenings at a local church. “I had to borrow speakers and a projector from a friend, (and while) the (first) turnout wasn’t great either. I was just happy I did it,” he explains. Some of the films shown include the recent James Bond film and popular favourites such as the Rush Hour movies and Friday, as well as the latest local films.
While financing the events present a challenge, leaving not much money from the business over for himself, he is still glad he’s making a difference for his community. And all his hard work has not gone unnoticed.
Sithela is doing an internship with another innovative entertainment business, the mobile, solar-powered cinema Sunshine Cinema, which takes movies to rural and disadvantaged areas.
It has been useful to research ways of expanding his own plans for his business, he says. “I just hope it grows big enough to sustain my passion for cinema. I have this dream of hosting a huge open air screening at Lookout Hill in Khayelitsha. Slowly but surely, I’m getting there.”
The above article first published on brandsouthafrica.com in 2016.